Pay to play is no longer taboo for technology PR
When you set a budget for PR it tends to cover all the usual items like content creation, news releases, articles, case studies, pitching to the media and monitoring the coverage. Very rarely does a PR budget include an amount for media spend. That’s because many technology marketing people still think in silos and that media spend is not connected with PR. Because PR is “all about free editorial coverage.”
Get PR out of the silo
This kind of thinking has to change as people begin to realise the benefits of an integrated communications and marketing strategy. PR does not sit in a silo, it’s part of the marketing mix. Particularly if you are adopting an inbound marketing approach where you are looking for a measurable return on all your new business activity. And for that reason it will sometimes need a little bit of helping hand in the form of cash. We’re not making a pitch for higher fees here but a plea to think more strategically about what we are trying to achieve in terms of business ROI.
To reach the major players you need to be a payer
Let’s take an example. Your leading trade publication wants to run a round table with some of the key players from your market. You want to be involved in that round table and you want the coverage that results. Who is going to pay for the round table? There is not enough advertising spend around these days to roll it in to the magazine’s overheads. The cost has to come from somewhere and you, as a major player, surely want to work in partnership with your key media to reach these tier one decision makers. The result looks like PR but it’s a partnership with editorial input from the magazine not just a lazy old school advertorial that nobody reads.
Amplify your expensive content
Another great example is a white paper. You can draft all the white papers you like but if nobody reads them then it’s a waste of time and money. Yes, traditional PR can help if you can get an edited version placed in the media as a thought leadership piece but why not maximise the investment you have made by working in partnership with the media to advertise your content on their site and use their resources to do targeted email marketing?
Paid search to boost content destinations not your home page
If your budget won’t stretch to media spend then look at using paid search to promote your content. It doesn’t mean you stop doing PR. It just means you have another way to amplify your content in addition to the organic search benefits your get from being featured in the editorial section of online publications. But make sure your PPC ads point towards your high value content rather than just to your home page. That way you will maximise your PPC spend without wasting money on pointless click-throughs.
Social sharing on steroids
The same applies to your social media programme. You may think that sharing your media coverage and “owned” content like white papers and blogs on social media will suddenly go viral and your traffic figures will go through the roof. But it’s unlikely. Yes get your colleagues to “like” and “share” your content but, although important, that only gets you so far. What about all the potential customers and influencers out there that are not on your radar? Sponsoring social media posts can be highly targeted and it’s yet another way to amplify the content that you have invested so much time and money to create.
Time for PR to shake off the taboo of paid media
We in the PR world would all love to believe that editorial coverage or “earned media” alone will bring sales leads flooding in but it needs a helping hand to reach those busy buyers out there who don’t read the papers or trade media. There is no doubt that PR can deliver much more than just reach as it can also convey trust, capability and experience all backed by the third party objective stance of the journalist. But, if you’re hoping to reach and nurture those sales prospects, you’ll need more than simply your own content endorsed by media coverage, you’ll have to add to the mix the amplification of ‘pay to play’ to achieve the ROI you are looking for.